Tag: Binge eating

Reforming my food intake – eating disorders v changes for healing

TRIGGER WARNING: this post discusses diet, eating disorders and food restrictions.

I was back at hospital a couple of weeks ago with another bowel pseudo obstruction, with a lot of pain and bleeding. Scary. Thanks be to God this was not as serious as the obstruction I had last year. However over the past year on the whole I have had a marked increase in gastric symptoms which are part of my POTS and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. It’s painful and disruptive. Possibly it’s also doing the rest of my body no good if I’m having inflammation or not absorbing nutrients properly.

I’ve decided to change how I eat along the lines of what I’ve read can help people with my conditions. It will involve a lot of protein, cutting right back on wheat and sugars (this will be hard for me!) and eliminating junk food. It will be quite bland at first whilst I find out what foods work for me or not. I don’t have celiacs but people with POTS and EDS can have problems with wheat that aren’t celiacs.

I’m conflicted because any strict diet, food restriction or elimination is triggering to my eating disordered thoughts and voices. Moreover I can’t deny that I’m hoping that my change in diet will lead me to get back control of my hunger, cravings and bingeing and that I’ll lose weight. I really want to sort my stomach problems but control and losing weight are hugely strong desires too. I’m overweight and repulsed at myself.

Possibly what I’m doing isn’t what professionals would think is a good idea if you have bulimia, binge eating disorder or a history of anorexia. Usually elimination of foods isn’t advised and you are supposed to listen to your body’s cues. I have no idea how to safely listen to my body’s cues. It seems to constantly scream “hungry!” In a way, am I listening to my body by recognising my gastric issues and the fact that my current eating is doing me no good? But I’m furious with myself for the binges and constantly want to punish myself. The diet that I’m going to be following will cut out a lot of foods I binge on. Will that stop my binges being triggered? I’m hoping so but I just feel I know I’ll lose control.

I’m trying to think of the changes as a long term way of eating, making it work for me throughout my lifetime, not a fad diet; also I’m trying to remember the fact my body needs this to get better.

Ginny xxx

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Colouring and dark

This picture has taken me over 2 weeks to colour.

I love grown up colouring books and usually no matter how awful I feel I can still colour. It’s a way of escaping for a while. Drawing is harder and needs some part of my creativity that gets frozen by depression but colouring is different. But the past month has been terrible and I couldn’t even do that. Tonight I finished this picture at last. It’s not any good all in all. I like a couple of the flowers.

Colouring for a few minutes was about the only time today I wasn’t breaking down overwhelmed with panic, asleep, mindlessly scrolling through the phone, or lost in dissociation. One small step, maybe.

I’m so mad with myself for not being able to do the simplest tasks, letting the house go, trying and trying and getting lost after a few minutes, binge eating, boiling over with emotions… cutting off for a while… in pain if something or someone interferes with that state… only knowing how to be alone because I only know how to be left even if I desperately want saving… trapped by fear and anger at myself, just hoping to get back to numb again and not remember. Sleep.

G x

Facing how much I need to lose

Warning: this post contains discussion of weight, weight loss, body image and eating disorders.

I have lost control of my eating and my body size completely. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been. I’m disgusted at myself, expanding and ballooning. The voices love it – greedy, pig, ugly, foul, repulsive… we’ll always know how bad you really are… images of rotten evil and greed bursting out of my skin… cut it all off, cut it out… 50 kilos. Lose 50 kilos then keep going.

It’s so much and so unattainable I let the despair close round me. It’s cold and numb first, then comes the bingeing. I don’t know if it’s a result of the despair. Often it’s a result of hunger that won’t be satisfied and demands more and more, til I get rid of it by purging til it hurts so much.

I am fat and more than fat.

I want to lose 50kg. I have the idea that then I could look at myself without so much hate and disgust and then the voices might be satisfied for a while, if only I could maintain it. Objectively I know losing 50kg would be too much and would put me in the anorexic weight range. I know losing 40kg would put me at the very bottom of the healthy weight range. I desperately want this then desperately want those 10kg more, to get rid of the fat greedy consuming thing inside me. To get rid of the evil inside me. Then I could look at myself. Then I’d have control back. Then maybe it would stop. Please. Please would it stop.

Why can’t I just do it, like I always did before? Why have I lost control?

I’m trying to be objective. Trying to think about losing 20kg first. Trying to focus on goals, not specific weight targets week by week but on good things that are coming and that will be even better if I lose the weight – going abroad in February for my fiancé’s work, being able to do more of my physiotherapy exercises, our upcoming wedding, and so on. Trying to remember that my fiancé does not think I’m disgusting or greedy or bad or anything else the voices tell me, and that he loves me and does not require me to change. Yet I have his support to lose some weight to take care of my health and that’s a wonderful help.

I’m going to try to identify specific actions I can take to stop bingeing and start losing weight.

Looking objectively, why do I think my weight has gone up out of control?

  1. Greatly reduced mobility because of my degenerative health conditions getting worse. I used to walk loads a few years ago but now I need a wheelchair.
  2. My medications – quetiapine and other daily medications I take increase my appetite and affect metabolism and cause a lot of weight gain.
  3. Binge eating repeatedly on sugary foods and other carbohydrates. Insatiable hunger. Yes I frequently purge or restrict after but it can’t get rid of everything and it’s dangerous in itself.
  4. Relying more on convenience foods because I’m not well enough to cook and at times when I’ve been really short of money.

How can I change this?

  1. I can’t exercise in the usual sense of the word but I can prioritise my physio exercises and then when I’ve lost some weight, going swimming. I’m changing my daily routine to make sure I fit these in.
  2. I can’t change my medications, at least not short term.
  3. I will not keep trigger foods in the house. At first I will greatly restrict the food I have in the house so there is literally nothing to binge on. I can’t leave the house unaided because of my health so won’t be able to go and buy more. My fiancé will help me get small quantities of non triggering foods and occasional treats only. I’m amazingly fortunate to have his help. This isn’t a permanent solution but might help for the first couple of weeks.
  4. Though I still need to rely on convenience foods because of my disabilities, I will stay within a daily calorie limit.
  5. I will research any advice I can find for coping with binge eating disorder.

How can I keep the rational part of me in control rather than whatever drives the insatiable hunger? I really don’t know what drives it. When I was anorexic I had found something that shut off the hunger, but I don’t know what it was. The disgust I felt for myself then and the disgust I feel for myself now are pretty similar. In fact I feel more disgust for myself now. If disgust doesn’t shut the hunger off, what does? I think if I knew that, it would stop me bingeing.

Ginny xxx

Ten dishes challenge #6: chicken stew and exploring wheat-free

Since the new year, actually I’ve been much better than usual at cooking meals, though usually I haven’t managed to remember to take a picture to add to this series, hence the lack of updates. A significant reason I’ve done better at cooking is that I was preparing food to share with a couple in my block who were in serious financial difficulty, and also cooking for another friend who is very unwell and struggles to eat at all let alone cook.

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I’m motivated to cook when I feel it’s to help or care for or simply for the enjoyment of someone else. This can help me overcome feeling too exhausted to do it. When I’m cooking for others, there is actually some joy in it even if I’m battling the chronic physical pain. The thoughts and voices that taunt me that I don’t deserve good food, must not eat, fill my head with repulsion at myself and greed and failure, do not come so loud when I’m cooking for others and sharing the meal. When I’m with others, I don’t binge eat and I cannot purge food. Perhaps it isn’t the ideal way out of these eating disorder symptoms – I have to be able to feed myself for myself in the end – but the more times I do cook, do share food, do manage not to binge eat and purge or restrict for long periods, the quieter the voices become even when I’m alone. It’s a very slow process and can still be awful but I think it’s a strength that will slowly grow.

The other major change in the last month is that since I was in hospital with stomach problems, I’m on a wheat-free diet because I was advised to try this. So I’m finding out new recipes or adaptations to recipes. As much as possible, I’m finding foods and ingredients that are naturally wheat free, because a lot of replacement products are very expensive, especially the processed ones. A very small loaf of gluten free bread will be £2.50 rather than 80p for a similar sized normal loaf; a packet of wheat free biscuits may be up to £3.00 rather than 75p or less for regular supermarket biscuits. I can’t have these things regularly on wheat free, at least not when I’m relying on Benefits whilst I’m signed off work. The plus side of this is that it leads me to cook more and eat more fruit, veg, beans, meat and dairy. My food bill will increase a bit nevertheless but I don’t think it will be unmanageable if I’m very careful to go for cost effective recipes. In fact, I’m often enjoying finding a new variety of foods and the altered diet. For example, I’m going to try making my own bread using wheat free flour. I discovered these funky coloured carrots that were tasty roasted:

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It’s not all saintly. Chocolate definitely still features in my diet! 🙂

For the first couple of weeks I was out of hospital, my stomach was very unsettled and I was mainly eating rice, rice crackers, cooked vegetables and fruit, peanut butter then gradually some egg and cheese as well. Most meals were looking something like this:

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Slowly, as my stomach is a bit better, I’ve wided my diet again with meats, yoghurt, various treats or desserts like chocolate, or fruit bars, and I’ve tried some wheat free cereal a couple of times. It’s a gradual process and I’m still feeling unsettling effects from the stomach problems I had.

I’ve also returned to using my Nutribullet, which I find most helpful for upping my vegetable and fruit intake with juices, ensuring I have high fibre intake and consuming things that can be harder to get into my diet. In the winter, I don’t enjoy eating a salad as I might in the summer, but I can make a yummy smoothie with some raw spinach and mixed leaves, avocado, banana, apple and a little lemon juice.

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The result does slightly resemble the bathroom suite my parents had in the 1990s, but I promise it tastes good. (Warning – in my experience, home made juices, whatever the ingredients even if you use brightly coloured fruits, tend to turn out green or brown. This may not look appetising however if you can overcome the colour they usually taste good.)

Yesterday I made a chicken stew with lots of veg and mashed potato, which I was very pleased with as I used not to be so confident cooking meat. I had the day at home so was able to pace the preparation better than usual. There was plenty left over that went in my freezer.

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Thanks be to God for helping me to rediscover some joy in food, some opportunities to share and eat with others and enjoy it, and gradually continue on the path to a more healthful diet and feelings around food and my body.

Ginny xxx

Exercise without returning to extremes

WARNING – this post discusses weight loss and eating disorders

I saw the nurse today as I had to have an ECG. I’ve had a lot of chest pain lately which is thought to be costocondritis but the GP wanted to check my ECG again. I’ve also been potentially diagnosed with another condition but that’s a story for another time.

Whilst I was there, the nurse took my weight and height and we decided I’m going to try the exercise referral scheme again (to a different gym this time), to have support to try very gentle swimming or at least exercises in the water.

It is time for me to do something about the fact that I am really upset at how much weight I have gained in the last 2 years, through poor diet and through my medications and being very sedentary as I often can’t walk more than a very little way unaided. The weight is increasing my hate of myself and my body. Not succeeding in losing it by my familiar means over the last few months has increased this hate even more. I know this isn’t a healthy thought pattern and I know many of my “familiar means” are eating disorder behaviors. At the same time, I am now slightly overweight according to BMI recommendations, so I need to lose weight for my physical health; also I need to care for my body’s needs by eating healthful meals rather than oscillating between starving and junk food, as has become my habit through lack of money and depression. I need to try to do some kind of exercise to improve my physical strength to manage the pain from my chronic conditions better.

So I have to figure out how can I manage my situation now and the changes I need to make without plunging deeper into eating disorder thoughts? How do I start an exercise programme without using it to punish my body? How can I keep track of my weight and control my diet without returning to my totally addicted state and the ever-present revulsion at my body tipping back over into self-harm and purging?

Does anyone have any thoughts about how to lose weight and change your eating to get back to a healthy weight range, when you have a history of binge-eating and bulimia? Are there any particular resources on this topic? I know that somehow I need to address the pervasive disgust I feel towards my body and ideally I’d do that first, but it has been present most of my life and I can’t allow my weight to grow to an even more unhealthy level. Most of my life since age 3 when my abuser started to use weighing me and controlling my food as one way of punishing and shaming me, I’ve been overweight, severely underweight or plummeting or ballooning between the two. I have lost all concept of normal food intake and normal appetite.

Ginny xxx

Laundry, hot dogs and tiny steps….

It is a day full of heat and summer. It’s a day of struggles inside my head too and it took me hours to force through the distress in my mind and even open the door and stand outside. I did it with the help of God. Perhaps it’s ridiculous that leaving the screaming and hurting going on in my head and the temptations to overdose and the fear of everything that is just too much and too forbidden to feel, had such a hold on me that it took the better part of the day to leave the one safe zone in my house. It may be stupid to anyone else but right now that’s how things are and the Lord took me in His hands and have me strength. For today that’s a little victory. I stepped outside. I smelt the grass in the sunshine, watched the flowers in my neighbour’s garden swaying in the breeze; I pegged out the washing and made myself concentrate and really feel the texture of the damp cloth, the warm stones under my feet and the air on my skin. It really is a beautiful day.

And that little victory continued and I have managed to walk down the street very slowl and come grocery shopping. I have promised myself to choose nourishing and healthful foods and not continue to punish myself with the binge-purge cycle that could numb some of the feelings I’m so afraid of now they don’t go away.

Right now before I do that, I’m just sitting with a cold drink and writing this to make my promises firmer. I’m watching the people passing in the street and letting this awareness ground me and draw me a little further out of my fear.

In the middle of all this I’ve actually smiled too, at happy children and at this chilled-out (though rather warm)guy waiting for his owner outside the health food shop. Seems they do their own hot dogs:

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So I guess what I’m saying in this strange rambling post is, it is very hard but I am trying to choose thankfulness and presence – thankfulness for feeling, presence with our God who does not leave us for a moment – rather than fear, self-punishment and numbing escapes. One tiny step at a time I’m asking God to give me strength to continue to look outward and be present, however much it hurts.

Ginny xxx

 

Is that an absinthe with your coffee? – These fragile little changes.

Is that an absinthe with your coffee? – These fragile little changes.

Wednesday was a really difficult day. I had come back from my stay with my friend and my goddaughters and started to have a glimmer of the thought that perhaps, mentally I was feeling a little bit better for the first time since well before Christmas. I wanted to hang onto the good that the weekend with my friend had given me.

In what has become a frustratingly typical pattern, as soon as I began to take hope in this and the idea that I had a rest day to recuperate before going back to work the next day…. bang went that one.

First I got a letter about my Housing Benefit. Somebody thinks I earn nearly £300 per week and therefore they have stopped my housing benefit. My claim had already been suspended for several weeks whilst they recalculated the (clearly extremely complex – ahem!) change to my income caused by the fact that I am working 2 more hours each week. So I have been receiving no benefit whilst waiting for the decision to be made, and hoping to receive a payment. Now they have stopped it completely so I have nothing. £300 per week coming in would certainly be nice but certainly is not true! I have no idea where they got that figure from. It’ll be another trip to the Housing office on Tuesday to try to sort this mess out.

Then I spoke to the CPN working with the Victim Support services. She had been meant to call me a month previously. I am still too upset about what she told me and how she handled things, to be able to write very much about it. Basically she still flatly refused to help me or even in her terms “signpost” me to support.  The Personality Disorder Service have given her the impression that they are doing trauma work with me and meeting all my needs, which is just absolutely untrue. They are not, they have told me they have no intention of doing it, and they are not helping me access the services that would do it. She continued to block me at every turn as I tried to suggest ways she could help me.  Apparently I am just not allowed to have the support any other victim of crime would receive, just because I have a personality disorder, and apparently, everyone thinks this is fine and wonders why I’d need any help with the nightmares, hallucinations, flashbacks, panic, etc, etc…

I was in complete distress after that call. Once again, I felt as if I’d been tricked into trusting someone, brought to the edge, cut open, left as raw as possible (going through the inevitable distress of making the statement and reliving the memories and the vulnerability of having started to trust somebody to be there), then kicked, ridiculed, not believed and rejected. It was like going through being a victim of someone’s abuse and deception again.

Something inside me was different this time. Something resisted the instant urge to cut and cut til the noise stopped and overdose to freeze everything out and enter the safe, numb world and preferably lose consciousness. Perhaps there was some little thing inside me, built up during the weekend with my friend, or built up from the strength of having resisted self-harming for several days, and the grace and mercy of my God. This time I decided to make it different.

I didn’t shut myself away. I stayed outside and walked. I went to a cafe I know I like and that feels safe. I ordered a coffee (it’s the best coffee there, in my opinion) and the suspicious green concoction pictured. No, it isn’t absinthe 😉 don’t worry. It’s a very refreshing drink made from almond syrup, mint syrup, ice and very cold water. Odd, I know. LS., my favourite barrista there, invented it. Anyhow… so I ordered my coffee and I sat and wrote down everything I was feeling about what the CPN had said and how I’d been treated by her and all the wrong information that had been passed from the PD Service and other sectors of the mental health trust. I sent the PD Service and email to say that I would now be making a formal complaint. I also sent them another email requesting in writing the discharge summary / care plan and letters they have so far refused to allow me a copy of.

I went and got my nails done. I went home and made myself some food for dinner. Okay it was only cooked frozen veg and chicken with considerable assistance from Captain Birdseye*. But it’s the thing most reminiscent of cooking myself an evening meal that I’ve done since autumn. After dinner I didn’t binge-eat. I had some more coffee and I made several greetings cards. (Hand making cards is a hobby of mine when I’m feeling more well.) I took the proper dose of my tablets and I slept. I had nightmares and had to move back to the sofa half way through the night, but at least I slept in the bed for a little while.

So, you see, I did what I could to break the pattern and keep some strength going and not resort to only what hurts me most. Instead of cutting and cutting the hurt into myself, I wrote it all out on paper. Instead of imploding I started to take action, beginning my complaint. Instead of agreeing with the voices shouting ugly, evil, liar, etc, I pushed them away and did something nice for myself and something nourishing. Instead of letting the destruction going on in my head take hold, I tried to create something positive and pretty.

Here’s to these little changes.

Ginny xxx

[*For those readers not from the UK – “Birdseye” is a popular brand of frozen / part-prepared meat and fish products; Birdseye fish fingers used to be advertised by the character of “Captain Birdseye”]

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry – Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #6

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry – Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #6

Protection in Emptiness

Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #6

“Closing the drawbridge” – eating disorders and rigidity

PLEASE READ WITH CAUTION – this post contains discussion of eating disorders (primarily anorexia), description of my eating-disordered thinking patterns, and a link to an article about studies on calorie restriction

[Wow, again it has been too long since I have posted in this series. Sorry.]

Many books about eating disorders, in particular anorexia, mention rigidity of thinking as a symptom which emerges as restriction of food increases and weight drops. When I worked at an eating disorder service, it was frequently described in inpatients on the ward. I’ve been pondering why this is and how much did I experience it when I was anorexic. I never used to think that my eating disorder was about control, although I now would take that back and I think I did use it if not exactly for control, in order to separate myself from my mother’s abuse and protect myself (and, I thought, others too) from demands, emotions and the dangers I felt they presented.

Perhaps it is logical that counting calories and measuring portions and exercise, forcing yourself to adhere to a punishing regime of starvation and painfully excessive activity in the very weakened physical state of anorexia, requires a strong, almost angry, obsessional drive. Sticking to this above and against all the natural urges of your body to keep you well and nourished, to the point that your body consumes its own muscle for energy, requires a steely determination that must be fuelled from somewhere. This could be seen as rigidity. It could easily spread to other areas of cognition and daily routine.

Certain chemical changes in the brain are thought to contribute to this rigidity as well, I believe. Two studies were conducted in the 1950s, using as participants conscientious objectors to National Service and former prisoners of war. One of these is the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, where starvation was imposed on physically and psychologically healthy participants who had no history of eating disorders. As the participants’ calories were reduced and their weights dropped, their thinking patterns became more rigid and obsessional thought and behaviour patterns emerged. When their calories were no longer restricted, they also became vulnerable to binge-eating. You can read more about Ancel Keys’ Minnesota Study here. (It would be considered highly immoral by today’s standards, although perhaps it is worth bearing in mind that one purpose of the study was in order to find out how to care for and manage re-feeding and weight restoration in victims of starvation in several countries following World War II.)

I am not sure to what extent rigid thinking was a big feature in me when I was severely underweight. Others who knew me at the time might disagree! It was mentioned to me on a couple of occasions.

On further thought, perhaps I did not struggle so much with rigidity over, say, my daily timetable – with the notable exception of excessive exercise, as I forced myself to swim a certain distance a certain number of times per week, until I was so exhausted and weakened that I could no longer move through the water which felt ice cold, my legs cramping, and I would drag myself to the changing rooms with my skin purple and blue, bruises appearing that did not heal and no number of layers of clothing warming me up.

However, if the rigidity was not externalised, it was certainly internal. This is what I think of as the “closing drawbridge” of anorexia that locks up or locks away everything we fear. I’ve talked in previous posts about the blissful, safe numbness of anorexia, ensuring my emotions were in check and flattened, and ensuring the evil I perceived in me was locked away to hurt only me, weaken only me, so that I could not hurt anyone else. Locking up the perceived evil locked up feeling, too. No more panic – just obsessive counting calories, distances, how to hide or avoid food. No more fear – just explicable pain, wonderful blanks and emptiness, safe empty gnawing in my stomach. No need to feel others’ feelings. No need to be hurt or be overwhelmed. Just glorious numb, nothing, whiter. lighter, clearer than before. No needing; no taking; just closing down, separated, apart from everything, locked up safe, pushing away and always succeeding, taking nothing in, frozen.

As a friend pointed out to me recently, emotions take energy, just as physical exertion takes energy, so with vastly insufficient calorie intake, there simply is no energy with which to feel. Despite the lack of energy, the drawbridge was shut tight and closing harder. The further I starved and restricted, paradoxically, tighter shut the door and even stronger came the energy driving me on, not to need, not to feel, not to fear, not to touch anyone or anything.

Coupled with that strength came a desperation never to leave this closed up place and never to need or feel again, to remain unreachable, to keep safe away and to keep everyone else safe away from me. If I could just be sure to hurt myself enough and never to eat, this wonderful place would stay with me. The fear of everything the drawbridge kept away joined the energy and both drove me harder and deeper into the numb place of anorexia.

Combined with my mother’s illness and abusive actions, there was no shortage of reinforcement from the outside that this numb place was good. The only period of my life in which my mother’s emotional abuse and threats reduced and in which she was even caring towards me, in which interactions with her were free of threats and scorn and twisted statements about the harm I was doing to her and my father, was when I was severely underweight with anorexia so severe it was probably life threatening. I was no longer a danger and no longer seemed to be so evil. I even thought perhaps she loved me. I even dared to hope perhaps the evil thing I was sure was in me and that came out and hurt and controlled and deceived everyone, was gone. If I could just stay like this, perhaps it wouldn’t come back. On the other hand with the drawbridge tight shut my body was mine as well, only mine, and the anorexia was mine, and she would never come near me again, literally never touch me again.

(Perhaps that was the one thing that was eventually true in all my twisted anorexic thinking. She did abuse me sexually during the anorexia but afterwards, she didn’t ever abuse me sexually again.)

Until I started to eat again and weight restore, there was only one thing that cut through my rigid defences, and that was singing. I’m not a particularly good singer but I was in a musical at my school (more because I used to be able to dance, than for my voice, I think!) and afterwards I took singing lessons, which were about the only part of my later school years that was enjoyable. Although I enjoyed singing, during the anorexia I would find that the music had a peculiar effect. We didn’t usually sing particularly emotive songs but I would often find music bringing me to want to cry or causing a strange twisting feeling of unease inside me, as though it was draining away the rigid kind of energy but I wouldn’t let it go. My mother prevented me seeking any professional help for my eating disorder but the only two people to whom I did talk about it honestly at all at school were my singing teacher and my art teacher. (My swimming coach was also very concerned about me and to some extent I did talk to her but, for some reason, although I knew she cared and was a safe person to trust, I was never able to be truthful to her, I think because in some way I feared hurting or disappointing her too much.) I don’t know why music and to some extent art, broke through the rigid protective mechanisms, but it did. I know that music can be very helpful in therapy for people with various conditions, including dementia and depression. I’ve never read about it in relation to anorexia but that might be something I should look into!

The struggles I have with overpowering, overwhelming emotions in my Borderline Personality Disorder, are the complete opposite of the protective place I entered in my anorexia, and they are an excess of feeling and needing which are probably, actually everything I feared. If I’m honest the numb place was safer. I’ve long lost the way back there and lost the key to the drawbridge and I hate that and I’ll admit that in the worst times, when I really hate myself and everything I feel and need, I wish I could return and it’s hardest at these times to try not to punish myself with cutting or purging. I’m trying to learn how to choose life and staying connected to other people – and to my body and my emotions – without the unbearable and dangerous becoming all that there is.

Ginny xx

Fat, and hot, and horrible.

The hardest thing about the quetiapine (and venlafaxine maybe, though I attribute it more to the quetiapine) and clonazepam is what it’s done to my body, or rather what I’ve let happen.

Fat. Disgusting. Sweating and hot (that’s the pain meds too I guess). Conscious of my expanded body. I have gained so much weight in the last couple of years. And I’ve let it happen. It’s true the drugs make you gain weight and increase your appetite, but I’ve failed. I haven’t stopped it.

I’m repulsed when I pass a mirror and see the foul reflection, bigger and bigger; when I feel the flab around my stomach and waist, the one thing I used to be able to keep flat and small even if I did have chunky thighs I hid under skirts. It’s everywhere. Crawling disgusting flesh and fat.

Why did I let it? Why? Why did I return to this demanding sick big disgusting body? I want to rip and claw and cut. It’s out of control. It’s all wrong. Growing and needing and hungry and hurting inside and out, aching within, stabbing in my stomach, darts and shooting burning pains as my feet touch the ground and my joints feel like they’ve been smashed and bruised.

Failure. Why. Hate. Hate hate hate this growing sick too big too present body. Even in my dreams I’m fat fat fat, running and clawing to get out of my body. My mother is there, shouting and mocking and threatening and I wake up drenched in sweat and shaking because the nightmare is real now. I couldn’t save her and the foul thing I am stares back at me out of every mirror.

And I cry.

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry – Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #3

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry – Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #3

Protection in emptiness

Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder

Chapter 3 – My History, 2 of 2 : 16+ years – adulthood

From the summer I turned 16 I started slowly and painfully to gain weight. It was frightening and felt out of control but at the same time it was about the one time I was cared for by my mother.

Even so it was tightly controlled by her. If I couldn’t keep to my lowest, most broken weight, I did want to please her by the way I gained weight back. Sounds weird, I know.

But it wasn’t long before she flipped again into her hatred of me. As I was “recovering”, she made my emotions – rising rapidly to greater extremes as I lost the perceived safety of the anorexia – all unacceptable and to be dismissed because, she said, it was all because of the eating disorder. I had to realise what I was putting the family through and how impossible I was to be around.

Then as I continued to gain, the “fat” talk returned. Now she even claimed that my father agreed with her. “You’ve got too much fat on you.” “Daddy was saying last night how he is very worried about the amount of fat you’ve got on you.” “You need to eat fewer carbohydrates and stick to protein. You’re getting far too much fat.” I know now that this was when I had only by a few pounds left the anorexic weight range, to enter the underweight range.

My weight was still going up. I was eating now but knew I was out of control. I tried to stick to what I thought was healthy eating during the day, but at night it was as if the compulsion to eat took over. I couldn’t stop. After dinner when I was doing my homework I’d go back and forth to the kitchen. Even though my parents could see, I couldn’t stop. It was as if something was inside me demanding more and more to eat and it was never enough. I longed for the control of anorexia to be back. But somehow I’d lost it. I was utterly repulsed and disgusted at myself that I could not stop eating. I longed to go back to starving but where had the energy to do it disappeared to?

If I didn’t eat, I couldn’t concentrate on my work. And I was driven to do the very best I could at my schoolwork. It was what my mother needed. Perhaps I was terrified she’d accuse me of “pretending” again and punishing her if I did not do excellently. Her grandiose beliefs about my intelligence increased about this time and she thought I was a “genius” and that “nobody could cope with my intelligence”. I longed just to be normal. Not to have to achieve amazing things and with no superb powers. I knew the grandiose things she said were not real but it frightened me a lot.

Equally she continued to pressure me to diet, to eat only salad during the day, she’d look at me hard and tell me how ugly I was, she’d watch me with a look of utter scorn whilst I was eating, she did not allow me to buy any clothes apart from my school uniform and anything I had needed to cover up how fat I was… she’d tell other people how fat I was… if anyone said anything complimentary to me in her hearing, she’d tell me afterwards how it was very nice of them to say it but I had to remember that they were only saying it to be kind or because they were worried that I might get an eating disorder again, and I must be clear that really I was very fat.

Throughout sixth form, my weight increased, and by the time I began university I was objectively fat. I was binge-eating in secret by this time and furious with myself for it. All the while I was longing for anorexia again but saw myself as a complete fraud and disgusting pig. Why couldn’t I just stop eating again? Every day I’d promise I wouldn’t eat but I’d get through a few hours, then binge.

In the spring term of my first year, my relationship with my mother was breaking down completely and I felt I was drowning in a feeling of emptiness, sadness and I was going through a religious struggle as well, believing in God but terrified of Him as well. Physically I was exhausted and following glandular fever was ill with ME and fibromyalgia which were not yet diagnosed.

Somehow, the pain enabled me to stop eating again. Over a couple of weeks, I reduced what I was eating very fast. I stopped eating solid food and survived on slimline Cuppa-Soups and diet hot chocolate. For 8 weeks, this was all that I consumed. I lost a substantial amount of weight. My friends concerns and discovery of my “eating” patterns led me to start eating again out of guilt that I was hurting them. But I continued to restrict and was sure never to go over 1000 kcal per day.

The next year or so continued like this. My ability to restrict food was still not as strong as I wanted and I lapsed into bingeing. Now I had discovered purging as well. I am not sure how. I started to take laxatives after binges, or try to go running (which I couldn’t because of the post-viral exhaustion). I would overdose daily on laxatives and not care that they made me too ill to do my coursework.

Still I was utterly repulsed by my body. It represented everything foul and uncontrolled I believed was in me.

When I worked in a department store over the summer between my second and final years at university, the physical activity helped me lose weight and some of the anorexic mindset returned. I reduced and reduced my food during my final year and my weight plummeted again. I had stopped the laxatives because they made me too sick to go to my classes and do my work, but if I did binge I would make myself vomit afterwards. Soon it became a compulsion to do it if I ate any more than salad. Doing it until I could tell myself I was sure I had got rid of everything and punished myself enough (ie until I saw bile and blood and could no longer stand up by myself) was “safe” I thought, and I was addicted to the pain and emptiness and the “high” that came afterwards.

Although my weight didn’t drop quite as low this time as it had when I was 15 or 16, mentally I was even further into the clutches of the disorder. It was the best way I knew to punish and weaken myself. I think I did realise I looked ill and realised that I was too thin. Nevertheless, eating, consuming, meant that I was disgusting and I was terrified that I would go out of all control. I did fear fat but even more I feared everything it meant to me and feared not hurting myself.

Around this time, just after I finished university, I was received into the Catholic Church. I was learning not to fear my God and perhaps on some level to understand that he did not think that I was dangerous and that my relationship with Him did not mean punishing myself enough for the badness I thought was in me, before I came to Him. The “God” I had invented in my head during my childhood (before I understood anything of the Christian faith or any more than snippets of the Gospels) was very much a judging, watching, God and to whom I had to atone for all the bad things that I had done.

Shortly after this, I started to want to recover. I was still disgusted at myself but on some level I did want to get to be “normal” and to not be dominated by the disorder. I started eating again. I was very ill physically with ME and a back problem and could not walk without crutches. As my weight went up I got scared again and, without a job at this time, I turned back to the laxatives and overdosed worse than before.

It is hard to really understand or remember quite how I got out of this stage. Perhaps the ability to restrict slipped away again. Perhaps in my struggle to eat normally I did start to win a bit. Perhaps as I got further from the extreme starvation state, my body did not have the drive to binge-eat as much food as possible whilst food appeared to be available, and my control of my appetite returned. Perhaps I just got better at resisting the hunger when I felt the urge to binge (or at replacing food with coffee!). A doctor once told me that most people who recover from anorexia go on to develop binge-eating disorder, because of the physiological and psychological effects of such starvation and being so underweight.

By my mid-20s, I was not underweight and by all external appearances, was recovered. I have to admit that I had taken steps out of the “safety” of anorexia or the temporary “comfort” of bingeing, to more normal, regular eating and an acceptable weight.

The problem was what this left me with. What I discovered lay beneath, which I could no longer conceal and suppress. When these things are too terrible, punishing myself with food / no food, with the distress of purging, is still a compulsion that I have to fight – and give in to at times. An extra struggle at the moment is that I take several medications which slow the metabolism and cause weight gain, and that physical disabilities prevent me from any exercise but walking. Poor finances also mean that I cannot eat as healthy food as I would like and the cheaper options are often higher calorie density. My weight feeling out of control is highly distressing because inside, wishing to be small and tiny is still very much there. That’s the safe thing but it’s now a safe thing I can’t seem to reach to.

I am very thankful that I have recovered to the point I have and I realise the terrible health consequences of staying at a starvation weight or purging regularly. I know the upset it causes to people who care (no matter how much I should wish to be invisible or wish nobody would be hurt but me!). I don’t want to do this to anyone. I know the physical effects prevented me from working (vomiting and stomach upsets from overdoses, heart palpitations, collapsing, debilitating weakness, cramps, regularly catching viruses and infections, poor concentration and memory, and so on) and it would be irresponsible to do something that meant I could not work. I don’t want to be anorexic again but in the dark times, I do in some way think that I wish I could go back there, at least to the place in my head that it opened.

In my following Chapters I’m going to try to describe what that place was, what terrible things I had to admit did lie beneath, and what the eating disorder meant in my life.

Again, I am sorry that this Chapter is not very well written. There is a lot that I am not sure how to explain and the memories are emotive. I’ve also tried not to go too far into my thought processes at this stage because I wanted to give an overview of my eating disorder history here, then in the next Chapters I will go on to say more about the reasons I didn’t eat, purged or binged.